Climate One

Tuesday, January 15 at 2:00 pm

The Hidden Health Hazards Of Climate Change

We know that climate change is endangering our planet. What might not be so obvious is that it’s also endangering our health.

Air pollution and changing weather patterns give rise to heat-related illnesses, asthma and allergic disorders.  Hurricanes and other disasters leave hospitals scrambling to save patients without power and resources. Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute, believes that climate change is “one of the most important public health challenges of our times.”

“Heat waves, air pollution, infectious diseases, especially vector-borne and water-borne diseases…and our health depends on adequate food and water supplies,” says Patz. “Climate change threatens each of these areas, and that's why it's a big issue.”

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, insect-borne diseases such as Zika, West Nile virus and Lyme disease have tripled in the United States in recent years – and warmer weather is largely to blame. Su Rynard directed the 2017 Discovery Channel documentary “Mosquito.”  She explains that warming weather is helping mosquitos live longer, travel farther and infect more people than ever before.

“We North Americans really don't let it sink in,” she tells Greg Dalton. “How the world is changing…there are no borders or walls that can protect us from mosquito borne illness and this type of disease.”

One person who survived a bout of West Nile is triathlete Chuck Yarley. He was bitten by a mosquito and contracted the disease during an outbreak in Texas in 2012.  He admits that luck was on his side.

“Five people in the hospital same week as me [got the disease],” he remembers. “Three died.”

But there is a silver lining, according to Patz.  In fact, he calls climate change “the health opportunity of the century.” 

“When you think what is causing climate change, it’s burning fossil fuels,” he explains. “And the measures we would take to combat climate change by getting off of fossil fuel in fact, in themselves, will have immediate public health benefits.”

“You know what they say -- every crisis is an opportunity.  And I think the global climate crisis is a huge opportunity for public health.”


Jonathan Patz, Director, Global Health Institute
Su Rynard, Filmmaker, Mosquito
Chuck Yarling, Engineer, Triathlete
Jessica Wolff, U.S. Director of Climate and Health, Health Care Without Harm

To listen to the audio of “The Hidden Health Hazards Of Climate Change” on Climate One online, please click HERE.